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Microsoft’s Antitrust Scars

 |  November 17, 2019

By Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg

Hi all, it’s Eric. Two decades ago, Microsoft Corp. fended off the U.S. government’s best effort to break the company into pieces. But even as it kept regulators from cleaving it apart, Microsoft seemed to fall into something of an antitrust-induced stupor. According to one popular theory, the company’s executives became overly worried about what their counterparts in legal might say, slowing innovation.

Today’s technology giants are staring down their own antitrust dilemma and seem resolved not to get too fussed about it. Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are venturing into all sorts of industries even as the regulars are bearing down. It’s almost like they’ve studied Microsoft’s regulator-abetted lethargy and are making sure to avoid it.

Google recently announced it would pay $2.1 billion to buy Fitbit, the wearable device maker, and is also building a search engine for a hospital network, scooping up healthcare data on “millions of people across 21 states” in the process. (Google says there’s nothing nefarious about the effort, dubbed “Project Nightingale.”) It’d like to be your banker, too. This week, the Wall Street Journal revealed Google’s plans to create checking accounts in a partnership with Citigroup Inc. I guess it’s not bowed by the antitrust investigations by the Department of Justice and the House Judiciary Committee, or the expanding focus of a state antitrust probe involving nearly every state attorney general in the country.

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